Michael Gove has been slammed by an official committee for failing to answer parliamentary questions. The Procedures Committee of the House of Commons found that Gove had stonewalled two questions from MP Lisa Nandy on the secretive New Schools Network (NSN):

Lisa Nandy (Wigan): To ask the Secretary of State for Education, for what reasons a contract has been made with an outside organisation to administer initial inquiries about free schools. (5511)

Lisa Nandy (Wigan): To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what tendering process was undertaken in awarding the contract to administer initial inquiries on setting up free schools; and what organisations submitted tenders. (5513)

Gove gave a government contract worth £500,000 to NSN – run by his 25-year old former special adviser Rachel Wolf – without tendering processes designed to safeguard impartiality. As reported by Scrapbook last month, government rhetoric on transparency is at odds with the secrecy surrounding the deal between NSN and the Department for Education. The data requested by Nandy was eventually released as a result of a Freedom of Information request from The Other TaxPayers’ Alliance but even this was a whopping 70 days late.

Nandy’s column for LabourList on Friday outlined the responses she had received from complaints to the Charity Commission and the Procedures Committee. Scrapbook can publish the Committee’s letter in full:

The Procedure Committee have now written to Gove demanding an explanation as to why he was deliberately withholding information from parliament:

“We have asked for … an explanation of why information was available when sought … was not supplied in response to a parliamentary question.”

With growing doubts around the £500,000 contract in relation to UK and EU tendering legislation it is hardly surprising Gove and company have been so coy on the subject.

The stench of sleaze around the New Schools Network is making DfE lawyers nervous.

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